Frishberg and his wife Sally, far left, on East 13th Street in Midwood circa the mid 1950s

A lifelong Brooklynite, Kenny Frishberg, this writer’s grandfather, began working at Fair Trade Pharmacy in Midwood in 1954. In the nearly 40 years he worked there — he retired in 1993 –he watched Brooklyn change and morph all the while he filed prescriptions. 


Welcome to the Hot Seat, where we interview folks involved in Brooklyn real estate, architecture, development and the like. Introducing Jennifer Johnsen, the new executive director of sales for real estate firm MNS. Jennifer oversees the sales and rental divisions at MNS and will open a new office for MNS in Williamsburg this spring.

Brownstoner: What neighborhood do you live in, and how’d you end up there?
Jennifer Johnsen: I currently live in Williamsburg. It was a day trip that turned into a new home. My kids and I went over from the city one weekend to check out the Smorgasburg and fell in love with the neighborhood. Two weeks later we leased an apartment and made the move.

BS: You’re opening up an MNS office in Williamsburg this spring, the second for the firm in the neighborhood. Why did it feel important to be in this particular neighborhood?
JJ: The Williamsburg/Greenpoint neighborhood is the hottest submarket in Brooklyn. MNS has had incredible success with our new development projects along the waterfront and surrounding neighborhood; we have a great presence in this area combined with a large group of very loyal and important clients. We do a lot of resale business in Williamsburg and have outgrown our space on Bedford Avenue.

After the jump, Jennifer discusses the market boom in Williamsburg, how to balance gentrification in a growing neighborhood, and the projects MNS is tackling in Brooklyn now…


Welcome to the Hot Seat, where we talk with folks who work in Brooklyn real estate, development, architecture, and the like. Introducing Donald Brennan, the founder of Brennan Real Estate. Brennan RE is a residential real estate company focused on rehabbing, maintaining and investing in multifamily properties in and around historic neighborhoods in the borough.

Brownstoner: What neighborhood do you live in, and how’d you end up there?
Donald Brennan: I live in Brooklyn Heights. I moved there in 1994 right after I completed my graduate degree in architecture. I initially started looking for a place to rent in the West Village but at the time even the most modest studio/loft style apartment was beyond my budget. Going a little further back in time, my journey to Brooklyn began in 1988 when I used to visit my sister at her apartment. She lived at the corner of Henry Street and First Place in Carroll Gardens; it was after a few visits to her apartment that I became intrigued with the idea of living in Brooklyn.

My first home was a studio sublet. I lived on the floor below a lunatic that chose to continue to rent as opposed to buy when the property was converted to a cooperative. His day started at 3:00PM and really got going once the bars closed. At around the 4:00AM he and his posse would tumble into the apartment and proceed to watch TV, blast music on the radio and scream at each other until the sun came up. This constant noise making was coupled with an all-day and all-night barking dog that lived in the townhouse just outside my window. Needless to say, this was a real test of my will to live in an urban environment, but I got over it. Due to this experience I am aware of the value of good sound attenuation between units, something I incorporate in my multifamily rehab projects.

BS: You’ve been involved in many aspects of the business, from architecture to development to rehabbing. What’s your favorite role in the process of real estate development?
DB: I really enjoy problem solving. When I was practicing architecture I was working with couples in building and renovating their homes, and because of the spatial vision I possess, I could understand how to reconfigure an outdated space into something that would both add value to the property, and meet their needs. I no longer offer architecture services, but I still really enjoy working with firms I hire to solve the design aspects of projects that I am working on. I typically choose firms with like-minded principals and those that have been successful in working with entities such as the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

With the recent addition of our own brokerage firm, Brennan Realty Services, we are now able to better serve the needs of our development clients by helping them sell properties they currently own and/or providing them with support in choosing the right project or home for them, if what we are currently working on is not the right fit. Through our brokerage we will be able to better position our own projects and protect the quality and care we put into our work. As opposed to some other independent firms we co-broke all of our listings, including our own development projects.

After the jump, Donald divulges some details on a new development planned for the vacant lot at Strong Place and Kane Street, talks Brooklyn as a NYC destination, and gives his opinions on the most exciting stuff happening right now in Brooklyn real estate…